The senate yesterday hosted a meeting that discussed existing and planned interventions towards women economic empowerment through financial inclusion and devising means of addressing existing challenges.
Participants acknowledged the many achievements by the country in the gender perspective but agree that more has to be done to further enhance it, especially by tackling challenges, head on.
Besides senators, the meeting was attended by local women entrepreneurs, the Gender Monitoring Office, Rwanda Cooperative Agency and Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe, among others.
Appolinaire Mushinzimana, the Chairperson of the Senate's standing Committee on Political Affairs and Good Governance, told the session that the Senate called for the meeting after his committee visited 12 districts and was surprised to find that most grassroots leaders do not grasp the concept of gender.
"It was clear that the concept of gender was not really understood as it should be. This is why our committee realised the need to consistently push such that issues should not just be viewed in terms of figures and statistics," Mushinzimana said.
"Are our women well informed of existing mechanisms? Are the beneficiaries of pertinent mechanisms - be it in the rural areas - boldly using the established frameworks meant to assist them? These are issues we should examine".
Senate president Dr. Jean Damascene Ntawukuliryayo urged participants to pay special attention to the qualitative aspect of gender issues starting right from the family unit where it is assumed that there is total gender equality.
"Our country is doing a lot in terms of improving the welfare of men and women, but it is important that such interventions are further strengthened so as to attain the overriding objective; sustainable economic development," Ntawukuliryayo said.
On the aspect of access to credit and saving services, the Senate president said: "What are the challenges and what can we do to ably remove possible barriers so that women can access credit and savings? Are women in the rural areas well catered for? These are issues we must really look into. What can be done such that lawmakers and other levels help women to achieve more"?
While discussing the national strategy on women and youth access to finance, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, Julienne Munyaneza, pointed out that only 22 percent of women get credit facilities from micro finance institutions, a problem she blamed on poor mindset and ignorance, which must be aggressively countered.
Measures to solve the problem, she said, include an ongoing country-wide plan involving sensitisation on the importance of availing credit to women.
More efforts will initially be put in the poorest or most affected districts such as Karongi, Nyamagabe, Nyamasheke, and others.
The meeting is expected to develop a common understanding of the current status of gender issues in general and of women economic empowerment, in particular.